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OLYMPIC REVIEW31London 2012 is approaching fast. With lessthan 12 months to go until the OpeningCeremony, excitement is mounting forLondoners, the Olympic family and sports fans aroundthe world. Construction milestones are being met andthe Olympic Park is already taking shape as asporting hub that will serve generations to come.While athletes and fans look forward to the event,London's East End is set for a transformation that onlyan event like the Olympic Games can bring about.But this is not the first time that the Games havecome to London. After hosting the Games in 1908and 1948, London will become the first city to hostthe Olympic Games on three occasions - although2012 will be the first time that it has been able to prepare properly. In 1908, organisers were left with less than twoyears to get ready, after the eruption of MountVesuvius put an end to Italy's hosting plans. Thatdidn't stop the charismatic Lord Desborough, thenBritish Olympic Association chairman, mastermindingthe longest-ever Olympic Games, spanning six monthsand including, for the first and only time, jeu depaume, rackets and powerboating.London next hosted the Games in 1948, againunder testing circumstances following a 12-year breakcaused by the Second World War. With Britain strugglingto recover from the conflict, it became known as the'Austerity Games'. In the words of one of the organisers,the event "boosted people's morale, everyone wasprepared to do their bit and get involved".IOC President Jacques Rogge is quick torecognise the role London has played in the history ofthe Games. "It's a great achievement," he says. "TheOlympic Movement owes a lot to the city of London."Having been awarded the 2012 Games in 2005,London has had seven years to prepare for thisoccasion and has made full use of that time. Nowhere is the remarkable progress made moreevident than in the Olympic stadium itself. In March,the last piece of turf was laid on the field of play -marking its completion on time and within budget. ? OVERVIEWLondon 2012

32OLYMPIC REVIEWElsewhere in the Olympic Park, the new basketballand BMX venues have hosted some of the first testevents. The handball arena and the velodrome, also purpose-built for the 2012 Games, are ready for action as well. The IOC's Coordination Commission for London 2012 has now travelled to the city eight times to gauge progress. On the most recent visit in April, the group focused on the Olympic stadium,the velodrome and the Athletes' Village, and werethoroughly impressed. "The outcome of our last Coordination Commissionvisit was very positive and we said that London was ina good place to start its test event programme inearnest," says Commission Chairman Denis Oswald."During this period, they will be able to focus on thedetails of their planning and see how their assumptionsmatch up against the reality on the ground."State-of-the-art design and technology were usedto create new sites and develop existing ones. Theswift completion of the 12,000-seat basketball arenain June, after less than two years, is only oneexample. Based on a 1,000-tonne steel frame andwrapped in 20,000 square metres of recyclable whitePVC membrane, it will be one of the largest temporaryOlympic venues ever.Sebastian Coe, the London 2012 Chairman, isadamant that every element of the Games will beathlete-centred. "We are completely focused on getting it right forthe athletes, so that they can achieve peakperformance and deliver the sporting spectacle thatthe public wants to see," he says. This is why the Athletes' Village is within a stone'sthrow of the Olympic Park venues and a short walk to the shuttle service to central London.The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) Athletes' Committee,chaired by former Olympic triple jump championJonathan Edwards, is also heavily involved inpreparations to ensure that the London 2012 Olympic Games provide the best possible athleteexperience. Its tasks even go so far as testing thefood and the beds in the Athletes' Village to ensurethey are up to scratch.At the same time as looking forward to seeing thenew venues come to life, organisers will have theluxury of using historic and cultural landmarks as thebackdrop for sports events.Iconic locations such as Horse Guards Parade,Hampton Court Palace or The Mall, will create "a visual spectacle" for the billions of viewers around the world, says President Rogge, and will "add to the magic and unique atmosphere that only theGames can create". East London, meanwhile, has undergone a majortransformation as it prepares to host the Games,creating many opportunities for the local community.The construction of the Olympic Park has generatedthousands of new jobs, and the Olympic Village willprovide nearly 3,000 homes post-2012."We want the Games to leave a social, economicand sporting legacy and I hope that young peoplefrom east London make the most of this," says Coe.With the inclusion of women's boxing, the LondonGames will also be the first to have both men andwomen competing in every sport, marking animportant milestone in gender equality. ?London 2012OVERVIEW